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Yes, perfumes expire: Here are signs to watch out for

What are the shelf life of perfumes

As they say, the bittersweet truth is that all good things must come to an end. The same can actually be said about perfumes. Whether you like it or not, once you open your favourite bottle of fragrance, it will inevitably go off after some time due to a number of factors. So, while it might be tempting to be frugal and reserve your dearly beloved scent only for special occasions and celebrations, it’d be wiser to spritz and spray it away instead of stashing it in a time capsule for later use, lest you want to be left with a decaying perfume.

Before we go to the telltale signs that a perfume has already expired or is nearing its last days, let’s quickly acquaint ourselves with why they expire in the first place. Science tells us that one of the main reasons is the perfume’s exposure to air, particularly oxygen. When there’s plenty of it in a bottle, chances are the perfume will suffer in quality. And if you wanna know how oxygen gets in in the first place, well, it happens the moment you open the bottle, and each moment you use it.

Shelf Life of Perfumes

While there isn’t a single known shelf life for perfumes, note that they can deteriorate as quickly as one year, or they can enjoy a long life of 10 years. This depends on the chemicals or ingredients used to make the fragrance – natural ingredients lend a shorter lifespan, while synthetics give a longer shelf life – how exposed it is to light, and how well it is stored.

But what happens if you don’t open a perfume bottle at all? In a HuffPost article, perfumer Sarah McCartney shares that a perfectly-sealed bottle can last for decades. She recounts how she opened a century-old Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleue and says it was “magnificent, absolutely perfect.” How did it age like fine wine? It’s because the bottle had an airtight glass stopper, plus it received no sunlight exposure as it was tucked safely in the dark part of a warehouse.

With that, it’s time to go through the signs your perfume has gone bad.

1. If the packaging says so

As with any consumer good, it’s important to let you, the customer, know up until when is the recommended usage of a perfume bottle. There are fragrance houses that explicitly print out the expiration date on either the bottle or the box that comes with it. If this is the case for you, then lucky you – all you have to do is look at the bottle and from there, you’ll know if it’s for spritzing or for tossing.

But what if there’s no ‘best before’ date in the bottle? This is where you put your sensory and observation skills to the test.

2. If the colour changes

You know your perfume is well within its shelf life if it still looks as if you’ve just cracked open the bottle for the first time, colour-wise. However, if an apparent darkening has taken place (e.g. translucent gold to deep brown), then it must be because the perfume has expired. This happens no thanks to oxidation and light exposure.

[Tester] Issey Miyake L'eau D'issey Pour Homme Eau & Cedre EDT Intense 100mL
[Tester] Issey Miyake L'eau D'issey Pour Homme Eau & Cedre EDT Intense 100mL
[Tester] Issey Miyake L'eau D'issey Pour Homme Eau & Cedre EDT Intense 100mL
[Tester] Issey Miyake L'eau D'issey Pour Homme Eau & Cedre EDT Intense 100mL

[Tester] Issey Miyake L'eau D'issey Pour Homme Eau & Cedre EDT Intense 100mL

RM298.00
[New in Box] Lattafa Asad EDP 100mL
[New in Box] Lattafa Asad EDP 100mL
[New in Box] Lattafa Asad EDP 100mL
[New in Box] Lattafa Asad EDP 100mL

[New in Box] Lattafa Asad EDP 100mL

RM255.00
[New in Box] Yves Saint Laurent Libre Le Parfum
[New in Box] Yves Saint Laurent Libre Le Parfum

[New in Box] Yves Saint Laurent Libre Le Parfum

RM578.00
[New in Box] Versace Dylan Purple Pour Femme EDP
[New in Box] Versace Dylan Purple Pour Femme EDP
[New in Box] Versace Dylan Purple Pour Femme EDP
[New in Box] Versace Dylan Purple Pour Femme EDP

[New in Box] Versace Dylan Purple Pour Femme EDP

RM650.00

Credits:  Fragrantica

3. If there are particles collecting at the bottom of the bottle

While this is a telltale sign, particularly for older bottles, fairly newer perfumes may also induce sedimentation. There’s no need to panic, though, ‘cause these particles might just be a sign for you to start storing the bottle in a cooler, darker place than where it is. In these cases, it’s probably due to the natural materials of the perfume not reacting well to the heat or humidity.

4. If the bottle appears to be hazy or cloudy

Rediscovered an old perfume bottle, only to find it immensely cloudy? While it’s tempting to spritz it on your skin, you may wanna take a step back because cloudiness is a sign the perfume has gone bad. This is primarily caused by substances reacting to each other’s presence.

If you’re still unsure, time to turn to the ultimate sign.

Ariana Grande Cloud EDP
Ariana Grande Cloud EDP

Ariana Grande Cloud EDP

RM59.90
Versace Bright Crystal EDT - Scentses + Co
Versace Bright Crystal EDT - Scentses + Co

Versace Bright Crystal EDT

RM49.90
Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue EDT - Scentses + Co
Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue EDT - Scentses + Co

Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue EDT

RM49.90
Burberry Brit Sheer EDT - Scentses + Co
Burberry Brit Sheer EDT - Scentses + Co

Burberry Brit Sheer EDT

RM49.90

5. If the scent doesn’t smell good anymore

The first signs are helpful visual cues, but nothing beats using the nose to tell if a perfume is still good to use or not. If your fragrance has lost its freshness – that it factor, or the reason you liked it so much – and you’re smelling sour, metallic notes in the mix which weren’t there before, then it’s most likely because the perfume you fell in love with has gone bye-bye.

How to test it safely: Pour or spray the fragrance on a piece of dark cloth or fabric and take a few whiffs. Let your nose be the judge.

Perhaps it’s time for a new perfume?

When a bottle of perfume expires, it’s like we’re being forced to part ways with a best friend who has been there for us, empowering us, and making us feel good about ourselves. However, it’s a necessary step to take unless you wanna be left with a stale, headache-inducing, and possibly allergy-triggering perfume.

On the bright side, your next go-to bottle could be right here at Scentses + Co, waiting for you! The brand offers a monthly subscription program which, when you opt-in, entitles you to try different designer perfumes each month. Get to know more about the program or subscribe now here!

SUBSCRIBE TODAY

Resources:
Bologna, C. (2022a, May 13). Does Perfume Expire? Signs Your Scent Has Gone Bad. HuffPost. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/does-perfume-expire-signs-gone-bad_l_627c99e1e4b0eb0f070d608f

Bologna, C. (2022b, May 13). Does Perfume Expire? Signs Your Scent Has Gone Bad. HuffPost. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/does-perfume-expire-signs-gone-bad_l_627c99e1e4b0eb0f070d608f

mindbodygreen. (2020, July 13). Yes, Perfume Expires: How To Tell + 3 Tips To Keep Your Fragrance Fresh. Mindbodygreen. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/does-perfume-expire

Ng, J. (2023a, January 24). Does Perfume Expire? Glam. https://www.glam.com/954450/does-perfume-expire/

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